Before this week, Chief was just a dog looking to raise some money so vets could inspect his ear. Now, this innocent beagle has been launched into viral stardom. Why? Well, his ear looks weirdly familiar.
Building upon the strong Internet tradition of seeing Jesus in grilled-cheese sandwiches, people all around the world have been gazing in awe at this two-year-old dog because the flaps within his ear look like the face of Donald Trump, apparently now President of the United State.
Jade Robinson from the UK took the photograph after noticing a strange bump inside her dog’s ear. “This photo was actually taken for our vet!... I swear I looked/zoomed in and out at this photo over 20 times and NEVER seen Donald Trump! HA,” she says on Chief's JustGiving donation page.
There is actually a good reason you can see the face of President Trump, or at least someone’s face, in this dog’s ear, though: your brain is hardwired to do so. It’s a psychological phenomenon known as pareidolia, a disposition to find a recognize a relatable image, sound, or pattern in a meaningless image.
Carl Sagan argued in his 1995 book, The Demon-Haunted World – Science as a Candle in the Dark, that pareidolia is likely to be a survival technique picked up from our evolutionary past. Particularly in instances of low-light, being able to easily pick up on a threat, such as an approaching face in the distance, would be advantageous. Even if nothing’s there, it’s perhaps better to keep a high vigilance, better safe than sorry, and be highly-sensitive to any potentially recognizable visual stimulus.
Sometimes, however, the brain is a bit too receptive to possible patterns and we end up trying to find meaningfulness in meaninglessness. Stupid brain.
There are countless examples of this, from the house in the UK that looks like Hitler or even the ancient tale of “the man in the Moon.” Fairly regularly, keen-eye space nerds spot strange things on the Martian surface in images by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover. So far, people believe they had spotted giant spoons, sculptures of alien women, and space rats. Rest assured, it’s always just a case of pareidolia.
Also – most importantly – good luck with the ear, Chief!